Just What I Needed, Under ‘Cover’

As one of the most recognizable and popular songs by The Cars, there are oodles of write-ups out there about “Just What I Needed.” Rather than add my little opinions to the fray, I’m going to focus on cool, fun and noteworthy versions of the song floating around. There are tons!

jwin1976.jpgRic Ocasek penned this tune in 1976, and of course, as you probably know, this was the song that launched the band… Radio DJ Maxanne Sartori heard it, loved it, and began playing it on her show in Boston. It quickly became a local favorite. On May 29, 1978, just before The Cars released their debut album, the band sent this single out into the world. Though it didn’t place high on the charts in the US (only reaching #27 on the Billboard Hot 100), critics and consumers loved it, and it obviously played a huge role in keeping The Cars on the Billboard 200 chart for 139 weeks. Many of us fondly point to this song as the one that started our Cars addiction.

In choosing various covers to include here, I started with the ones I enjoyed the most, and then narrowed it down based on the criteria that something unique stood out about the performance. There are so many interpretations out there; this certainly isn’t a definitive list.

I’ve got to start out with this terrific audio consisting only of Benjamin’s vocals, his bass, and the guitar solo. Off. the. CHAIN. I love this one in the headphones.

This next version is actually performed by just Ric on acoustic guitar. He participated in one of a series of artist ’roundtable’ shows at The Bottom Line in New York City on May 21, 1992. Organized by Allan Pepper and Vin Scelsa, the idea was to bring together a small group of songwriters and get them talking and playing, and let the music take over. Take a listen here:

Greg’s been known to jam to this song outside of The Cars as well. I loved seeing this video of him with the Aquabats on May 8, 2014, at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. I’m always delighted with Greg’s participation in children’s programs, and of course, it’s so terrific to expose the next generation to this great music:

And speaking of the next generation, listen to this little cutie pie banging out a drum cover. She nails it!

Then we’ve got a band of teens confidently rocking it out at a 2016 talent show. You’ve got the groovy chick on bass, the firecracker on the drums, and check out the dude doubling up on keys and lead guitar!  I’m loving this:

This next one is more acceptable to MY teenagers, who love the dubstep genre. This modern remix, created by well-known Swiss DJ and producer, Antoine Konrad (aka DJ Antoine) will definitely get a party going. Give it a listen:

If you need something a little more mellow, get a load of this bossa nova version. I still laugh when I hear it… it always reminds me of Flint Lockwood taking a break in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs… Haha!

Lots of bands have put their own spin on this iconic song. This one is probably my favorite… the vibe is so happy and the variety of stringed instruments makes it extra fun. That banjo, though!

Looking for even more fun than that? This ‘vintage 60s cover’ really takes it to another level, and the video has a host of visual delights: aside from the stunning Sara Niemietz, the background players draw the eye with their goofy antics.

Need to cut about a minute off of your listening time? Ghoti Hook, a 1990’s Christian punk band from Virginia, really ramps up the tempo in their cover… feels a little frantic to me but surprisingly appealing somehow… go figure! Just give it a try:

More recently, American country music singer Eric Church performed “Just What I Needed” during his May, 2017, show. I love how accessible this song is across genres, and the reaction of the crowd is terrific.

“Just What I Needed” has also been used in commercials, movies and in TV shows. Here are just a few samples, starting with this quick spot from Circuit City, 2005.

Many folks may remember the controversial-but-iconic teen film Over The Edge that came out in 1979. Not only was it Matt Dillon’s acting debut, but it featured “Just What I Needed” as the backdrop for a pivotal party scene:

And you can’t overlook this terrific scene from the Emmy award-winning television cartoon, Bob’s Burgers.

Even in recent films, “Just What I Needed” fits the bill: here is a trailer for the new Reese Witherspoon movie, coming out in September of 2017. I love how this song (and much of The Cars’ catalog) is timeless.

Okay, this final audio is so interesting to me. Since I sometimes have a hard time discerning the different instruments in full studio versions of songs, I am always fascinated by recordings that isolate various elements. The segment plays twice and it is well worth the second listen… it’s utterly delicious. Ooooh, that bass!

Do you have a favorite version that I didn’t highlight here? Comment below or find me on Facebook and tell me about it!













22 thoughts on “Just What I Needed, Under ‘Cover’

  1. Wow SPJ – the first one with just Benjamin’s vocals, the bass and guitar solo is fantastic! Where do you find these tracks??!! The kids at the talent show are pretty cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know I am a few years late on this Donna, but have to comment because this is just spectacular – and if we didn’t ‘t know how great Ben was before, we sure do now.
      I have heard a similar thing recently from the KLOSS radio programme, which was very good, but I was really annoyed when the DJ said Ben was doing a good impersonation of Ric!!!!!!!?????? Best wishes P.S. I know you are so busy, but must ask: How can I listen to the AMU demo that Magnoliajem mentions below. Thank you. I am almost as big an admirer of you as I am of Benjamin the Magnificent. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for following me and I am so happy that the CARS memories, are being maintained, by a sincere, kind, loving friend, named SweetPurpleJune ~
    I am enjoying the memories and pulling out vinyl and buying it all in CD form!
    You keep THE CARS vibes flowing, and we will all support you forevermore.
    He knows every authentic vibe you are putting out in the universe ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One of the “extras” in the deluxe edition of the first album is the demo version of JWIN, or “the demo that got the deal”, as Greg Hawkes’ liner notes call it. My copy arrived in the mail today, and it is THE BEST JWIN out there! (By the way, the other real gem is the unrealeased demo of “Wake Me Up”. Just beautiful. Can see why you took your username from it!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, yes, and YES! I’m so glad you got your copy! Wasn’t it a shock to hear “All Mixed Up” sung by Ric? And the different sound of “Moving In Stereo” — I’m so glad Benjamin took the vocals on the studio album! Haha!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. IMO Benjamin should have sung lead on most of the Cars songs. Not only was Ric’s voice less musical, it also wasn’t as strong. Didn’t realize how reedy Ric’s voice is until re-listening to the AMU demo. Even with Benjamin singing his harmonies softly, his voice was still stronger! (I did like the extended guitar at the end of the demo, even though it drowned out the sax.) MIS is definitely better suited to Ric’s voice, & he makes the song even weirder. Having said that, once I’ve heard Benjamin sing a song, no one else can do it justice.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Many of the songs are perfect for Ric, but I, too, would have liked to see Benjamin have more of the lead vocals. Even more, I would have liked him to play a more prominent role in the videos of the 80s. No one saw anyone but Ric.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. I agreed that some songs were meant for Ric. However, moving in stereo isn’t one of them. It’s a song for a real singer with range and superior phrasing. The RRHF performance of this song made me cringe- thin, tinny vocals that went absolutely nowhere.
    About Cars videos…
    When Ric took the lead in the Drive video, leaving Ben to languish in the shadows of Ric’s enormous ego, it was obvious the band’s days were numbered. That said, I’ve had “Don’t Tell Me No” stuck in my head for 3 days now. I think it’s a haunting. 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Ric had to take over songs that were clearly not his strong suit, and it made the loss of Ben even more evident than it already was! But the music ROCKED, and it was terrific to hear it played live. I have strong opinions about how videos were used with the band throughout the eighties (I touch on them a little in a few of the podcast episodes), and I agree that relegating the other band members to the fringes of the productions was an unfortunate and crappy thing to do by whoever made those decisions. Now I have to go watch the video for “Stay the Night” so I can get a full fix of Benjamin! Haha! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I agree that they would have been even bigger than they were with more longevity, not only because of Ben’s fabulous and completely superior voice, but also allowing people and women especially to get some really good, long vision of him in the videos – swoon, swoon, swoon! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just wanted to concur that Greg Hawkes really comes across as a bright light. There is a charming video out there of him on the ukulele doing a cars cover. His joy and humor are delightful to watch. Married to the same person for so many years too. He would be fun to sit and talk with. And his current long braid seems so unexpected!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! Greg always adds so much color to every project he participates in. And his induction speech was SO great! I had the good fortune to chat with his wife, Elaine, a little, and she is sweet and funny — just like Greg. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is great, loved hearing the isolated vocals. So many different types of performances of this song, it’s a great one. Also I think Greg Hawkes is just adorable. Every time I see him pop up in a live performance or in video he makes me smile. And such an incredibly creative and talented musician.

    Liked by 1 person

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